Timaru, Kaikura to New Plymouth

Trip Start Mar 06, 2013
Trip End Apr 04, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, March 22, 2013

A big flying day. The usual getting ready at the hotel and scrambling to fit everything back in to the bag it came out of. The room always looks like there was a small explosion of carry on luggage at a radio shack. Electronics charging everywhere, hotel rooms are a little short on usable outlets. All the other surfaces are covered with bags, clothes and charts.

Briefing at Timaru for the flight up to Kaikoura. A competion leg. We had already decided that we wanted to fly along the coast and skip  the looking for service station roofs and swimming pools along the inland 'competition' route for the day. Our flight was scenic and at low altitude, including a full tour around the Banks Peninsula east of Christchurch.

The Safari staff was getting a little better at briefing after the incident on yesterday's lunch stop. We were well aware that Kaikoura would be a short strip with hills rather tight to the approach end. They also briefed against the full overhead entry which prevented the artificial creation of opposing traffic over the airfield. With yesterday's arrivals in Timaru, as Safari traffic arriving from the South attempted to cross the 'finish' line overhead the airport the post-finish traffic was trying to cross the field North to South for the 'correct' overhead join. Nothing too exciting occurred but it did seem an unnecessary risk.

We all had a great flight up the coast at 600' while the competitors chased after landmarks inland. Kaikoura proved to be a charming spot for lunch. A miniature version of Gold Beach, Oregon, with the runway right along the shore.We saw a big pod of Dolphins just before we joined the circuit.

From Kaikoura we headed for New Plymouth on the North Island, making our second Safari crossing of Cook Strait. We amended our route to fly over Picton where we had arrived with the ferry ten days ago. It was a stunningly clear and sunny day so we thought it would be fun to see Queen Charlotte Sound (and a couple ferries) from the air. It looks even better from above, something like a warm version of the San Juan Islands or a cool version of Thailand (according to Jon).

Visibility was stunning over the strait. Having climbed to 5000' to get radar tracking from Wellington Control we stayed high well after we arrived back over land, watching a few of our Safari companions pass beneath us. 

We had hoped that Mt. Taranaki would be putting in an appearance but this high volcano was veiled in clouds. We caught only the briefest glimpses of the top as we passed by on our way into New Plymouth.

The tower at New Plymouth was very busy managing all the arriving aircraft. That didn't dampen our enjoyment of the waterfront in the warm evening light. The Aero Club hosted us for afternoon drinks and dinner. As a bit of entertainment the Safari organizers had their first round of 'demerits' to present for those who had committed real or imagined faux pas. There was a little tension when the crew of the twin that ran through a fence at Taieri was called up. The 'infraction' they were charged with was based on the fact that when the luggage was transferred out of the damaged plane, one of the crew dropped his Viagra on the field. It was returned with good humor.

We all retired to our hotels, happy to have a rest day tomorrow. There is an optional flying trip but we and many others will be catching up on laundry and other tasks instead. 

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